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Another Year Has Passed
Happy Birthday

Another year has passed -- another twelve months since the last time I took stock of "life, the universe and everything" [=42 for those who still don't know].

Fifty-seven years have elapsed and here I still am, continue to be. Perhaps an excellent time to take stock.

As usual, the year was a mixed bag. Michal got married to a really nice guy we didn't even know existed a year ago (though he was invited to Sruli and Dana's wedding). The wedding was amazing -- a real high.

I don't believe I got over last year's seven year work itch milestone. So much for theory. Vocationally nothing changed. That is a little frustrating. But somehow, without a satisfactory or satisfying job, and with the generous help of the Lord, I still manage to make a reasonable living.

And the world is -- or possibly it is now more obvious to those prepared to use their powers of observation -- a more dangerous place than it was a year ago. More dangerous to personal freedom and personal independence and becoming more dangerous to one's person. The ruling ilk becomes more aggressive, using more incredulous tools to beguile and betray the gullible masses, who fall for their socialist agenda "hook, line and sinker".

My mother did not have a good year healthwise. She did recover sufficiently to make it here from Australia for the wedding. Our prayers and the grace of God should hold her in good stead.

I met some long lost cousins this year: my [second] cousin Zechariah and some of his family. Zechariah spoke of our family, including my late father, back in Europe, before, during and after the war. The meeting was exciting. Family really is just that -- we got on really well, as if we had always known each other. As my late friend and landsman, Erwin often advised me, "You can have lots of good friends, but if it comes to the crunch, you can only depend on your family to stand with you". The older I get, the more right he is.

I was exhibited as part of an exhibition in Warsaw. I really wanted to be at the vernissage. I missed it because it was the night after Michal and Dov's wedding. I am crazy enough to want to have gone, even though flights to Warsaw leave Ben Gurion Airport at 6:00 am.

I could have made it. After all, I left the wedding before 1 a.m., and was already half way from home to the aerodrome. Heck, how often am I going to be displayed in [cursed] Warsaw! I talked about it but never made a decision either way. The time for the flight just passed by and I hadn't booked a ticket or attempted to get to the airport. Classic velleity!

I'm eating better than ever before. I'm cooking more, buying less processed food, and consuming more organic. I didn't touch the microwave zapper in the corner of the kitchen since my last birthday. It's handy for holding my spice bottles above the bench -- more reachable. Yes I eat more spices and drink more red wine to help their digestion.

My photography has improved, though I didn't sell anything [I think one book went in Warsaw]. I didn't hold a solo exhibition in the last year. The two, I believe, are pretty well connected. I realise that it is hard to sell photographs from a small image on a website -- and that's assuming you have driven potential buyers to you site. I'd be happy to hear from others who have a different opinion. I believe that exhibiting in real life is the only way to sell. Anyone want to invite me to exhibit -- I'll be there in a flash.

I have added many photographs to the site, a bulk of them from two trips over the last year to the States, this time to San Francisco for my first time, in addition to New York City. I visited some really nice work at exhibitions in both cities.

I discovered a new method for high quality book production and produced a few books on photographic paper. The people who make these are some nice Satmar Hassidim who operate a business in New York City called Adorama. I have printed metallic blowups with them in the past. They do great work (or should I be more modest and say they bring out the best in mine). Here's one of the books I really like.

On a gallery crawl around New York's Chelsea district, I met an interesting (budding) artist who moved from San Francisco to be "in the center of the art world", New York City. After two years he had not yet managed to pull off a show, but was becoming known by the correct clique. Even though he was not yet in the big time, he gave me a lot of useful advice and interesting tips, most of which I have yet to implement. But his wise words greatly affected my thinking.

He also taught to answer, "What do you do?" with "I am a photographer" -- no, not a serious amateur, but a fully fledged full-time photographer. He really liked my work (contemporary abstract realism we now refer to it after our meeting).

He told me that he perceived my [advanced] age to be an advantage in the art world. "Why, because people will think I have fifty years of photography behind me?" No, but you've obviously been somewhere in the last fifty years; you've seen things, done things. He also felt my "gender" (but only when coupled with my age) were an advantage. "Were you straight out of school, then, yes, being a female would probably be more advantageous."

I love that politically correct term, "gender". In English, a person has a sex (as opposed to performing it -- in that context sex it is merely an abbreviation of the "sexual act"). All slightly complex living beings, including plants, have a sex: male or female. Neuter can be applied to an animal or a plant that was desexed, but the term usually refers to undeveloped or imperfectly developed sexual organs -- like a chopped of stamen.

Words have gender, usually neuter, male or female. English has largely dropped the concept of gender, so except for words like she/he, his/her et al, all words are neuter gender. Hebrew, on theother hand, is very strongly genderised -- it doesn't even have a neuter gender. So I'm sure he meant my sex may be of advantage to me. But I didn't bother sermonising to my new friend.

Which brings me to another interest which I want to further develop -- the study of linguistics. While this, especially etymology, has been of particular interest to me since high school, recently I have been studying various aspects of language. I believe I now pronounce Hebrew correctly (there are a few of us around, unfortunately not yet too many -- special thanks to Rav Benzion Cohen of blessed memory who dedicated his life to the task).

I took on one of the icons of the subject, Steven Pinker. Maytal suggested I go back to school and do a doctorate in the subject. Perhaps. I need to think of an angle. Whether hanuka is spelt with an gh or something else, doesn't seem to be heavy enough.

I discovered a word that describes my current state of mind: velleity. I uncovered it in Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. In the "modern" vernacular it means:

  1. Volition at its lowest level.
  2. A mere wish or inclination.

But it's archaic meaning is what I desire to revive. I don't believe that synonym-rich English has another word like it. Velleity is a "mild desire, a wish or urge too slight to lead to action". It's a pretty sick state, but I admit to being a sufferer.

I got to understand, perhaps appreciate, my mother a little better. She's always been a secretive type. So tell me her siblings. But when it comes to disease, while there is an element of hypochondrium (seems to be typical of just about all the Europeans I know), her secrecy is extreme. So extreme sometimes to be laughable. She thinks people can't see what is as obvious as the nose on your face.

But I think this goes back to two life experiences, the second reinforcing the first. In Auschwitz, and later as a slave labourer at the Junkers aeroplane plant, anyone who was sick was immediately and unceremoniously disposed of. So one learned not to share how you felt, even with your closest compatriot. It is a survival instinct.

After surviving the war and the murders, these remnants of the Jewish nation had to pick up the pieces, without any backup or support. After many attempts, my parents finally created a goldmine business, in partnership with the relatives of a relative, also Slovak/Hungarian speaking survivors. The two couples did well in their business from the beginning. Until my father suddenly died.

The other "lady" then claimed that this business now was an unequal partnership. So my mother had to prove that she was better than two other humans. Thus she couldn't afford to ever be sick and carried whatever ailment, medical or psychological, she may have had, in secret. Sadly, after a few short years, the other lady's husband also checked out -- and the business was continued successfully by two widows.

Not easy being of the second generation.

I don't know what my next year is going to bring. I'm not even sure I can tell you what I want it to bring for me. What I really want to see is the final ingathering. It's happening. I can see the hand of God hovering over humanity. The God of history is making His presence more and more obvious. I pray that our brethren see it in enough time to leave the galuth under their own terms. Historically it seems Jews leave their escape a minute or twto too late.

I'm sure I'll be writing more on this topics in the coming year. It occupies most of my time these days.

I thank the Creator of the world for caring for me over the last year and pray that He continues to look after me and those close to me. I also pray that more of our people realise that what is happening in the world is the manifestation that the God of Israel is the God of history. That He does not perform visible miracles, nor change the course of nature, but rather works through history in what seems to be a natural process.

Have another happy birthday Menachem :-)

20th January, 2010    

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